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Epilepsy & Seizures

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Epilepsy is a neurological disorder distinguished by seizures. The experts at Houston Methodist know that epilepsy can have an all-encompassing impact on the lives of patients and families. Our goal is to help minimize or eliminate your symptoms so you can lead a normal life.

The Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Houston Methodist is led by fellowship-trained neurologists who specialize in seizure management. Our program is accredited by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers as a Level 4 Epilepsy Center — the highest rating available. 

Houston Methodist offers leading-edge monitoring and diagnostic technology, such as our inpatient epilepsy monitoring unit and the full range of epilepsy surgery options. While there is currently no cure for epilepsy, advanced treatment can help manage your seizures and improve your quality of life.

Comprehensive Epilepsy Care at Houston Methodist

Our clinicians and researchers drive innovations that shape national epilepsy standards of care. At Houston Methodist, patients receive the highest level of epilepsy care available in Texas. We offer: 

  • Clinical trial therapies not widely available at other institutions 
  • Comprehensive evaluations and second opinions for first-time or recurrent seizures 
  • Innovative brain surgery approaches for medication-resistant seizures, including deep brain stimulation (DBS) and vagus nerve stimulation 
  • Pregnancy-related seizure management  
  • Precise diagnosis using advanced brain-mapping technology

Diagnosing & Treating Epilepsy & Seizures

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

Having a seizure does not always mean you have epilepsy. Sometimes a seizure is related to a temporary condition, such as exposure to drugs, withdrawal from certain medications, a high fever or abnormal levels of sodium or glucose in the blood.  

Diagnosis begins with an examination that includes a thorough look at your complete medical history, a physical examination, detailed neurological examination and specialized tests, including:  

  • Advanced imaging, such as head CT or MRI 
  • EEG (electroencephalogram) to see if there is any abnormal electrical brain activity  
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) 
  • Blood tests to help identify or rule out underlying conditions 

 

Your neurologist may recommend 24-hour observation in our epilepsy monitoring unit, where we evaluate your brain with advanced brain mapping technology. During observation, you stay overnight in a private room in a hospital setting.  

Once the underlying problem is identified and treated, your seizures may stop. If seizures continue after treatment, epilepsy may be suspected. 

Epilepsy disrupts the activity and electrical signals in your brain, causing spontaneous seizures. The type of seizure a person has depends on a variety of things, such as the part of the brain affected and the underlying cause of the seizure:  

  • Grand mal or tonic-clonic seizures include convulsions or uncontrolled, violent shaking with loss of consciousness.  
  • Petit mal or absence seizures, are characterized by a blank stare for 10 to 20 seconds followed by a quick return to normal alertness. This type of seizure is common in children. 
  • Temporal lobe or focal seizures, which may include confusion, staring, lip smacking, repeated swallowing or chewing, unusual finger movements or picking motions. 
     

Based on your exams and type of seizures, we will design a personalized treatment plan to reduce episodes and improve your quality of life

What treatments are available?

Our board-certified epilepsy experts work together to develop your personalized treatment plan. Depending on the type and frequency of seizures, your plan may include a combination of treatments, such as: 

  • Medication – Anticonvulsants typically are the first step in epilepsy treatment. Medication works differently for every person; your neurologist may recommend several medications before we find the one that works best for you.  
  • Diet recommendations – A ketogenic diet (low carb, high fat) can help prevent seizures in some patients. Patients with epilepsy are advised to avoid alcohol, which can increase seizures or interfere with medication. 
  • Vagus nerve stimulation therapy – A small device implanted under your skin sends electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve in your neck, which carries signals from your brain to other areas of the body.   
  • Deep brain stimulation – Similar to how a pacemaker works on the heart, an implanted neurostimulator sends electrical signals to areas of the brain causing epileptic seizures. This minimally invasive procedure is an option when medication alone does not control seizures.  
  • Brain surgery – People with difficult-to-treat or drug-resistant epilepsy may benefit from brain surgery to remove tissue in areas of the brain where seizures originate. Houston Methodist offers state-of-the-art brain mapping technology to pinpoint affected tissue while reducing impacts on healthy areas of the brain. 

What if I need advanced care or a second opinion?

Whether you need a precise diagnosis or a second opinion, we can help. Our specialists can pinpoint the cause of your seizures and design a personalized treatment plan to restore your quality of life.

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Clinical trials can provide hope for patients who have not had success with standard or “best known” treatments.
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